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The Fashion District, in collaboration with the Fashion Innovation Agency, is pleased to announce the launch of the Manufacturing Futures 2021: Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize, sponsored by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, on January 28th 2021.

Fashion District challenges are designed to find innovative solutions to current industry issues across retail, manufacture & design. Manufacturing Futures will give start-ups & SMEs the chance to win cash prizes, support, and the opportunity to pitch to some of the industry’s leading brands & innovators.


We welcome applications from tech start-ups who believe that their business has the potential to revolutionise any part of the fashion supply chain. All applications must feature the use of technology, but could be looking to solve an identified need in areas such as:

  • Materials Innovation
  • Processing
  • Transparency & Traceability
  • Waste Management
  • End-of-Use & Circular Economy
  • Supply-Chain & Logistics

To be eligible to apply, registered businesses must be based or operating in London, or intending to pilot the initiative in London to enter this Challenge Prize. Applications are being assessed on the extent to which they satisfy the following criteria:

Is there an identified need and/or gap in the market?
Is it an innovative concept with a clear solution?

Does it have a USP and stand out from others currently in the market?
Is it addressing a growing market and a future opportunity?

Are there strong plans for development and delivery?

Is there exceptional entrepreneurship?
Is there relevant industry and/tech skillset within the team or the individual?

This prize is promoted by Fashion District, London College of Fashion, UAL, 20 John Prince’s St, London, W1G 0BJ

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29 MARCH 2021

Deadline to submit applications.

W/C 10 MAY 2021

Shortlisted finalists announced.

24 MAY 2021 / TBC

Critical Friends Development Day where industry professionals will critique finalist's proposition across different specialisms before their final pitch. Two additional workshops will be held in June and July (dates tbc)

5 NOV 2020

Closed pitching event with the finalists to industry experts from IET, Make UK, IBM, H&M, Pangaia and the Fashion Innovation Agency.

Judges & Critical Friends

Julian Burnett

RETAIL FUTURES JUDGE | Julian is a digital, technology and business transformation leader ranked in the CIO Top 40 in 2018 and has executive and C-level experience across retail, consumer products and supply chain industries. As VP, Global Markets - Distribution, at IBM he leads business in the UK covering these market sectors. Julian has held CTO, CIO and Supply Chain leadership positions at Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and House of Fraser, where he led large scale digital and technology enabled business transformation. Julian sits on the GS1 Apparel Board, is an Advisor to Retail Week Tech, and advises and campaigns with Business Disability International about the role of technology in enhancing the opportunities and experiences of disabled customers and employees. Prior to this Julian held consultancy leadership roles at both CapGemini and CSC. He is a trained coach and facilitator, a regular industry speaker and also guest lectures on Oxford Brookes University Executive MBA course, where he is collaborating on a research based book.

Matthew Drinkwater

RETAIL FUTURES CHAIR OF JUDGING PANEL | As the Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion, UAL, Matthew works at the crossroads of fashion, retail and technology, delivering projects that have captured the imagination of both the fashion and technology industries. Using emerging technology to alter the way that the fashion industry is making, showcasing and retailing, Matthew and his team are building a pathway for truly digital designer businesses. Most recently, he worked alongside Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division ILMxLAB to bring their new performance-driven augmentation technology, LIVECGX, to London Fashion Week.

Roberto Battistoni

RETAIL FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Roberto is the Solutions Lead in Consumer Products for IBM working across retail and supply. Roberto’s role covers business development, innovation and sustainability; he shares his focus and passion between start-ups and established enterprises in equal measure. As part of the Distribution and COVID-19 response leadership sales team, Roberto is responsible for identifying innovation initiatives that could be significant for the industry and for IBM. Roberto has spent ~20 years working in Consumer Products, covering a variety of roles from Account Management to Project Management through to leadership. A contributor to Retail Week on the topic of sustainable purpose and technology Roberto is also a member of TLA Retail Tech and TLA Circular Economy.

Andrea Crump

RETAIL FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Andrea leads on circular fashion at LWARB. Her role includes developing new strategies and policies to help London move to a circular economy and delivery of a range of projects with corporate fashion companies. Current projects include working with Adidas and Farfetch to bring circular business models to market. Andrea was previously head of the sustainability team at the London Borough of Sutton, delivering a wide range of sustainability programmes. She started her career focusing on marine pollution and beach litter. Andrea is a Chartered Environmentalist and has a Masters in climate change.

Lamia Sbiti

RETAIL FUTURES CRITICAL FRIEND | Lamia Sbiti is a Senior Business Advisor supporting London-based SMEs go circular as part of the Advance London programme. She wants to live in a world where all business is regenerative, and is committed to making that happen. Prior to joining LWARB she has nearly 10 years’ experience advising organisations of all size and sectors re-design their services to deliver business and environmental benefits. A zoologist by training and published illustrator, Lamia applies scientific, commercial, and creative skills to prove that a circular form of business is viable.

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